Wendi Trummert, DrOT, OTR/L, the collaborating clinician for this project, works with students in a self-contained program. Wendi wanted to know how childhood trauma affects brain structure and morphology and how it is linked to behaviors seen in children affected by trauma. A synthesis of all articles looking at the brain reveals differences in both structure and function in the brains of individuals exposed to childhood trauma versus those not exposed (e.g. Daniels, Lamke, Gaebler, Walter, & Scheel, 2013; McGowan et al., 2009; Saleh et al., 2017). A synthesis of articles looking at maladaptive behaviors finds that those often seen in children affected by trauma, including aggression, emotional dysregulation, decreased executive functioning, and hyporeactivity may be linked to these brain changes and may explain why traditional behavioral approaches are often ineffective with this population (e.g. Briggs-Gowan et al., 2010; Lemmey et al., 2001; Shields & Cicchetti, 1998). It is recommended this information be disseminated to educators and others who work with children exposed to trauma to increase understanding and promote appropriate supports.

A toolkit including a presentation, pamphlet, and conversational sound bytes were created for the clinician to increase knowledge and combat bias about problem behaviors in children affected by trauma amongst educators and coworkers. Insiders’ perspectives were included to generate empathy, help guide the best type of support for additional student services, and reduce occurrences of inappropriate interventions for maladaptive behaviors. Options and resources to effectively address maladaptive behaviors should be provided to educators after they are presented with this information.

Publication Place

Tacoma, Washington


University of Puget Sound

Faculty Advisor

Yvonne Swinth, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Project Chairperson

Publication Date



Capstone Project





Degree Program

Occupational Therapy

Degree Level

Master of Science


Occupational Therapy


University of Puget Sound